A Thai wholesaler asked me today at the pool, “What’s non-fiction?” My immediate answer wasn’t perfect, but it was this: “non-fiction is about reality, or the world we live in.” She asked for details.
“Non-fiction? OK. I could write an article about this swimming pool. That the water’s freezing, but tropical flowers and trees are everywhere. I could describe the nice man who carried my bike up the stairs, and the quiet morning. Or your shop. You could write a descriptive essay (story) about that. You could write about the wholesale industry in this town or the special techniques you use in your business. How about swimming pools or swimming? Just like they are. But there are many kinds of non-fiction.”
You probably love to talk about writing, too, or about your own passions.
I see other teachers recommending STRUNK & WHITE. It’s on the Net, in libraries and for sale. It’s sweet for writing clear, distinct prose. Some of the many ‘rules’ are: OMIT NEEDLESS WORDS. USE A SHORT WORD THAT SAYS EXACTLY WHAT YOU MEAN, NOT A LONG WORD YOU THINK MAKES YOU LOOK SMART.
WRITE IN THE PRESENT TENSE ACTIVE VOICE. <Note: for example: active voice, present tense: Today I teach how- to- pitch a story. I want you to confront editors with all your smarts.>
Dr. White means: write from your center, in the moment, the here and now, like we talked about earlier in the week
. -ING AND THE PASSIVE VOICE MAKE YOU LOOK LIKE A PUSH-OVER. <Example of passive voice, “Teaching the pitching of a story is enabling to new writers when they’re confronting editors.”>
Today’s writing gurus say that too many details exhaust your readers. Rather than read another paragraph they’ll put the story down, go eat an apple and forget about you. Too many precise numbers, strings of description and words, words, words make us tired.
A steady market for years was a trade magazine (Massage). I wrote articles about yoga, health, travel and stress management. Some of the yoga articles were specialized self-help pieces for massage therapists, with photos I took for the pieces. I also wrote from Nepal and India (once about local people doing chair massage). I also wrote from Sarnath, India, about herbology students at the Tibetan university there. Like many other publications, they don’t print ‘personal essays’ any more. Lesson: It’s good to know how to write in many ways!
You’ll need to learn specific vocabularies in order to write for today’s markets, but you can write steadily. In addition, learn how to write fiction. Notice the kinds of fiction that are popular now. Learn how to write dialogue, create characters that live and breathe, and their world. And always READ.
Read entire books that are popular now; check with a librarian in your library for what’s most popular and READ IT. I spent over a year writing fiction, over and over again. I was surprised at how skilled some of today’s novelists are, including romance novelists. There are on-line courses from many universities to teach you.
We’ll talk more about this tomorrow, share some links then and over the next few lessons. We’ll also discuss writing poetry and greeting cards.
Don’t forget: even when shifting your focus a bit, follow your heart. Respect your muse and be patient, but persistent.
Many thanks for all your comments and follow-throughs. I love reading your sites. You’re all over the world, you know that?
Mary Ann Davis in Thailand